Simulation games give us the ability to be God. We love the opportunity to play with peoples lives, with only pixelated consequences. Tomodachi Life (2014) is a simulation game where the player is given an island and their job is to create the people that will live on it, then watch them interact with each other. It is a very simple concept, but with it comes a feeling of fun.
The main enjoyment comes from the creation of your islanders. The player is given full customization control – although they are very cartoony in style (being Mii’s) but it can give some impressive results if one is artistically inclined. Once on your island they pretty much do whatever they want. Stay in their flat, speak to other people on the island or just wonder around the available locations. It’s not the most thrilling thing to watch and I’m not sure if it can really be termed as a game. But you can entertain your little people by changing the look of their flats, giving them silly clothes, food and phrases they can say.
I’ve never really been one for playing dress-up, nor was I into dolls as a child but I do find a strange enjoyment out of characterizing my friends, people I admire, book and film characters. There is something funny about giving my best friend a hamster suit to wear or thinking about what would best suit Ramona Flowers (from Scott Pilgrim). It was fun to give the different characters hobbies to do in their free time but there is a very limited choice in what to choose from and the game wold benefit from extra choice. This could have been made more interesting through the islanders learning over time or leveling their skills which could affect their relationships.
The island itself starts with only a few locations but grows over time due to having completed certain objectives (have a certain amount of islanders etc). These things include food and clothes shops, a fairground for islanders to play together, a bigger apartment block for the creation of more islanders, and a dock for street pass. The street pass function allows you to send islanders on ‘adventures’ and you can receive characters from other people’s islands in return, it also allows the swapping on a specific item that is linked to your island that can only be ascertained through street pass.
Overall I found Tomodachi Life fun despite everything feeling the same after a short period of time. Once all the upgrades to the island have been achieved and you’ve populated it with the people you want all there is to do is watch them interact with each other. This can led to many amusing moments, questioned friendship between Professor X and Magneto, for example, but this only entertains for so long. The only real goal is for islanders to decide to get married and have children but this is completely outside of the players control, so you have to either hope the people you want will get together or just let them do their own thing.
Despite the limited things to do I find myself often returning to Tomodachi Life. Maybe it’s because I created them, which has given me a strange vested interest in their simulated lives. Or perhaps it’s the silly humor of being able to make up lyrics and make a group of Youtube reviewers sing about the games they play. It certainly isn’t a game for everyone and I’m sure that most people pass it by in the shops. If you’re interested though, then it is worth a look for casual gamers that want to pass a bit of time.
Tomodachi Life – Nintendo